Sunday's game was obviously a disappointing loss for a couple of different reasons. It was the first home loss of the season and a chance to make a statement against one of the best teams in the entire league and defending Super Bowl champions.
On defense, the third-down issues were deflating at times, especially with how well the unit as a whole played for a large majority of the game (and I'm not overplaying that fact - the defense was really, really impressive, especially against the run).
On offense, there were some missed throws in the passing game. There were issues in pass protection and it was tough to get any kind of consistent movement in the run game. Head coach Chip Kelly said Monday that the entire offense didn't play well, and it was apparent from start to finish. There are lots of factors that contribute to a performance like that. It's never one clear-cut answer. This team has a history of rebounding well after a tough loss, however, and there's every reason to believe that will happen this Sunday night against Dallas.
Despite the negative, there were some bright spots as well. After re-watching the game, there was a ton to take away from the defensive film. One thing stood out above all else, and that's that the Eagles have two legitimate young stars on this defense who deserve more national recognition: defensive end Fletcher Cox and linebacker Mychal Kendricks. After watching the game the first time, I thought I'd pull every example where these two had a huge impact on the result of the play. It ended up being a lot more than I thought, so I pulled the best of the best (still ended up being more than 20 plays). To start this week's piece, let's look at how these two affected the game from start to finish, in sequential order.
Play 1 - 1st Quarter - 1st-and-10
The Seahawks came out and ran inside zone to the right out of a Pistol set. Marshawn Lynch had a number of angles he can take this run, but he decided to take it back side. Cox locked up with Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, defeated his block and made the play. It was a great way to start the game for Cox.
Play 4 - 1st Quarter - 2nd-and-10
Later in the drive, the Seahawks ran an outside zone-read with Russell Wilson in the shotgun. Look at Cox get inside the pads of the Seattle left guard, James Carpenter (another former first-round pick), vault him into the backfield and stonewall Lynch for no gain as his teammates rallied to the ball. The defense as a whole on Sunday did a great job running to the football and gang tackling Lynch, something that would be a key factor in getting "Beast Mode" to the ground before he did too much damage.
Play 10 - 1st Quarter - 2nd-and-11
A few plays later, the Seahawks called a wide receiver screen to the right as the Eagles attempted to keep Seattle out of field goal range on their opening drive. Tight end Tony Moeaki is responsible for blocking Kendricks in space, something he finds tougher than he expected to complete, as the linebacker easily shrugged him off and stopped him for a limited gain to bring up third down ...
Play 11 - 1st Quarter - 3rd-and-5
After Kendricks made the play in the screen game, the Eagles came back and played a form of Cover 1 (man coverage) with Kendricks as a hole player underneath. The defense played this coverage often with a lot of success on Sunday, as Kendricks served almost as a quasi-spy role, keeping his eyes trained on the quarterback and blitzing him when given the earliest opportunity. The delay from Kendricks works great because (a) he's athletic enough to match Wilson's sideline-to-sideline movement and (b) with his pressure coming so late in the down, the offensive line does not account for him in protection, so he often came in clean.
On this play, the protection defined itself, a lane opened for Kendricks, and he took off for Wilson, forcing him off his spot to help lead to a sack for Connor Barwin. It should also be noted the great job from Cary Williams and Brandon Boykin did at the bottom of the screen, as the Seahawks ran a switch release concept to try and get Doug Baldwin free down the sideline. Boykin was right on his hip to deter a throw. When Wilson is forced out of the pocket, Nolan Carroll II and Bradley Fletcher plastered their men to help force a punt.
Play 13 - 1st Quarter - 2nd-and-5
On the following drive, the Seahawks attempted a pass downfield off boot-action, and again it's Kendricks' pursuit of Wilson paired with coverage on the back end that resulted in a negative play, this time an incomplete pass out of bounds. Kendricks did a great job using his hands to keep himself clean from right guard J.R. Sweezy before he flushed Wilson out of the pocket.
Play 14 - 1st Quarter - 3rd-and-5
On the very next play, the Eagles again came out in a Cover 1 look with man coverage underneath, Kendricks as a hole player and Barwin spying Wilson. The Eagles have just a three-man rush going after the quarterback on a critical third down. At the top of his drop, Wilson's options are taken away by tight man coverage. He broke the pocket, rolled to his left under the watchful eyes of Barwin and Kendricks, as he was tracked down short of the first-down marker to force a punt. Barwin's presence helped, but I believe it was Kendricks' pursuit as well that helped prevent Wilson from turning the corner too soon to head upfield.
Play 15 - 1st Quarter - 1st-and-10
With the Eagles up 7-0 and backed up on their own 18-yard line after great kickoff coverage, the Seahawks decided to run a toss play to the strong side. Lynch had nowhere to go, however, as Kendricks spun off the block from the left tackle, squared up and got in on the tackle. Major props go to Brandon Graham for setting the edge and Brandon Bair, who continues to shine in limited snaps along this incredibly talented defensive front, as well. Watch Bair keep the Seattle center at bay with one arm, shrug him off, keep his balance and collapse on the ball carrier with Kendricks and Bennie Logan chasing from the backside.
Play 16 - 1st Quarter - 2nd-and-8
On the very next play (keep in mind, I'm still just using the best plays from Cox and Kendricks, though it feels like I'm using every play), the Seahawks run what should be a familiar play to Eagles fans, the split zone, with tight end Luke Willson coming across the formation to block the back side. Kendricks read right through the play, evaded the block with his quickness and instincts and made a one-on-one stop against Lynch in a phone booth. This is a play that few linebackers in the NFL can make and Kendricks made it look easy.
Play 21 - 1st Quarter - 2nd-and-16
Later in the drive, the Seahawks attempted a zone-read play. Cox, lined up as a 3-technique, bench pressed Carpenter again, stood him up and brought Lynch down for a short gain.
Play 24 - 2nd Quarter - 2nd-and-4
A few plays later, the Seahawks went back to the stretch play, this time out of the classic I formation. Look at how Cox kept himself clean and pursued the play down the line and take down the ball carrier. Cox's lateral mobility and natural athleticism were on full display on this play.
Play 26 - 2nd Quarter - 1st-and-10
Seattle began its next drive with an inside zone play away from Cox. Watch him again engage the block from Okung, shed him and make the tackle for a 2-yard gain.
Play 27 - 2nd Quarter - 2nd-and-8
Running away from Cox didn't work, so on the very next play Seattle called a stretch play to his side. Cox completely stalemated Carpenter on this play, riding him into Lynch's path to allow Graham and Trent Cole to collapse on him for another 2-yard gain.
Play 30 - 2nd Quarter - 2nd-and-3
Fast forward to the next series, where the Seahawks ran another zone-read play out of the Pistol. Now this play came after Russell Wilson's long touchdown run off a zone-read play. After some miscommunication on that run, look at how the Eagles' defense played this snap. Cole crashed down on the linebacker. Kendricks scraped over the top and Wilson was tackled for a 2-yard loss.
Play 32 - 2nd Quarter - 1st-and-10
Two plays after Kendricks took Wilson down for a loss, the Seahawks tried inside zone toward Cox again. Cox jacked up Carpenter at the line of scrimmage before enveloping Lynch for no gain.
Play 39 - 2nd Quarter - 2nd-and-10
Later in the same drive, the Eagles lined up in almost a "bear" front with three linemen aligned directly over the center, right guard and right tackle. Seattle saw it and ran a stretch play away from to the weak side, but to no avail. Again, Cox exploded into the backfield, this time at the expense of the Seahawks' center, pulling down Robert Turbin for a loss.
Play 40 - 2nd Quarter - 3rd-and-11
Cox's tackle for loss brought up third-and-long for Seattle. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis again went to that Cover 1 look on the back end, with man coverage across the formation, a deep safety and Kendricks in pure berserker mode. Tight coverage downfield from Fletcher, Williams and Boykin helped deter a throw. Kendricks waited for the protection to set, saw an open lane and pressured Wilson, forcing him from the pocket and bringing him down. Wilson was actually called for intentional grounding on the play.
Play 41 - 2nd Quarter - 1st-and-10
The Seahawks got the ball back and on first down went to the zone-read. Carpenter, the Seattle left guard who likely because of how Cox has played throughout the first half, took too long to get to Kendricks at the next level because he is focused too hard on getting contact on Cox along the line. Kendricks stayed square to the line of scrimmage, got around Carpenter and brought down Turbin for a short gain.
Play 45 - 2nd Quarter - 2nd-and-10
A few plays later, it's have Cover 1 and Kendricks pressured Wilson again to force a throw out of bounds. Credit Kendricks as well as the coverage downfield to bring up third-and-long.
Play 59 - 3rd Quarter - 1st-and-10
Midway through the third quarter, the Seahawks went back to the zone-read. The scheme forced Wilson to give the ball to Lynch. Graham is waiting on the edge for Wilson if he decided to keep it. Cox held up his end of the bargain. Watch him anchor down with one arm, keep Okung at bay, hold his ground and bring Lynch down for a 3-yard gain.
Play 61 - 3rd Quarter - 1st-and-10
Cox stood out as a rookie because of his ability to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage. On this play against Seattle's power run game, Cox chased the pulling guard through his gap and took Lynch down for no gain. Cox was up and out of his stance in a flash, stuck his foot in the ground and exploded on his fourth step parallel to the line and came up with the tackle.
Play 73 - 4th Quarter - 2nd-and-5
This should feel like déjà vu at this point, but here's Cox again just dominating Carpenter at the snap of the ball, defeating the block and bringing down the running back again for a short gain.
Play 77 - 4th Quarter - 3rd-and-15
In a 10-point game, the Eagles needed a big play on defense to have a shot at coming back in this game. Who came up with a big play? This time, it was Kendricks. The Eagles were in 2-man coverage with two safeties helping over the top and straight man coverage underneath. Kendricks had Lynch out of the backfield, and though he initially overpursued to force Lynch back inside, he exploded back to the ball and got it out to force Lynch's first fumble of the season.
I showed you 22 plays. Overkill? I don't think so. There were even more plays I could have pulled from those two guys alone. Was the Eagles' defense perfect against Seattle? No. But against a tough offense to prepare for with all of the factors that come with a guy like Wilson and a back like Lynch, I think they more than held their own and performed admirably under the circumstances. All I can say is, if you haven't already, go and vote for these guys (as well as your other favorite Eagles) for the Pro Bowl. These two guys (along with many others) are very much deserving.
On offense, there were three plays I felt a need to diagram how they came to be.
This is the Eagles' first touchdown to Jeremy Maclin from Mark Sanchez. Before the snap, the Eagles motioned Maclin from right to left. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman pointed it out to safety Earl Thomas, expecting Thomas to run with Maclin. Fortunately for the Eagles, he didn't, and that bit of hesitation gave Sanchez all the time he needed to bail on the running play (watch the running back and offensive line) and throw it out to Maclin on the edge, who got a block from Riley Cooper to get into the end zone.
This next play the Eagles ran a few times. I noticed the play watching it live during the game and couldn't wait to see how it looked on film. For weeks, I've shown the Eagles' inside-zone counter play, where the line blocks in one direction to make it look like a run one way only for McCoy to take a counter step and go back the other way against the grain.
Well, the Eagles found a way to counter the counter run. The counter step from McCoy got the Seattle linebackers to pursue to the right, what they believed to be the play side. What they don't expect is ANOTHER counter step from McCoy, who went back to the original play side. This play resulted in a 10-yard run for McCoy, as the Eagles ran it a couple of times with success throughout the game.
The final play is Zach Ertz's long touchdown reception off of a switch release concept the Eagles have run a couple of times this year. It's called a "switch" because the two receivers switch at the snap, with the outside receiver running vertically inside and vice versa. This release potentially creates confusion for the defense, or creates interference to allow the receivers to gain some separation downfield, which is exactly what happened here. Sanchez hit Ertz, who made an athletic play on the ball and finished at the pylon for the score. Great play design and great execution from the Eagles' offense.
Fran Duffy is the producer of "Eagles Game Plan" which can be seen on 6abc Saturdays at 7:30 PM. Be sure to also check out the "Eagle Eye In The Sky" podcast each week online and on the Philadelphia Eagles podcast channel on iTunes. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2011, Duffy was the head video coordinator for the Temple University Football team under former head coach Al Golden. In that role, he spent thousands of hours shooting, logging and assisting with the breakdown of the All-22 film from the team's games, practices and opponents.